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Monday October 26, 2009 1:35 pm

2009-2010 NBA Southeast Division Preview

Posted by Phil Partington Categories: Editorial, NBA,

Dwight HowardThe Orlando Magic were so close to winning the 2009 NBA Championship, they could practically taste it. However, poor foul shooting by star big man Dwight Howard, and simply being overmatched by the Los Angeles Lakers snuffed that dream rather quickly. However, the Magic are back with renewed spirit and added depth in hopes of getting another shot. Meanwhile, the rest of the Southeast Division hasn’t gotten any easier. Some believe it to be one of the toughest divisions in the league. The Washington Wizards also added depth and seem to be healthier than last year; the Miami Heat hope its young prospects can emerge to give Dwayne Wade a decent supporting cast; and the Atlanta Hawks look to take its immensely talented, but immensely unproven roster to the court again.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Orlando Magic
Hedo Turkoglu won’t be missed as much as some think. Sure, he made for opponent mismatches alongside Rashard Lewis, but he had a subpar season in 2008-2009, and really didn’t pick things up too much in the playoffs. Landing Vince Carter will more than make up for the loss. Expect a big season from Vince. Afterall, a motivated VC is a dangerous thing. On top of that, the Magic got a whole lot deeper with the additions of Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson (who’s a lot better than people think), Brandon Bass, and Jason Williams (provided he can still play).  Expect another run at the NBA title this season, especially if Dwight Howard’s free-throw practice in the offseason pays off.

2. Washington Wizards
This is completely predicated on the notion that the Wizards can stay healthy. There are a lot of questions about Gilbert Arenas and what kind of player he is after missing an entire season. Caron Butler is also a concern, and now, the most reliable Wizard, Antawn Jamison, is already missing the next 3-5 weeks. Yet, Washington made several additions, including Randy Foye and Mike Miller, to combat that problem. Young big men, like JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, will have to step things up this year, as well.

3. Atlanta Hawks
It doesn’t make sense that the Hawks aren’t more active on the trade market. Blame a collective ownership for that. Atlanta has a logjam at the forward and point guard spots. Moreover, the team has lacked a true center for years. The Hawks could improve, but the team needs Josh Smith to be more consistent, for Joe Johnson to have another season like he did last year, for Marvin Williams to be more aggressive, and for management to fill in the holes.

4. Miami Heat
The Heat are right in the mix with Washington and Atlanta, and could easily be placed in that second spot behind Orlando. Why? Because Dwayne Wade is that good. In order to get over the hump, however, Michael Beasley is going to have to show more than he did last season, and Mario Chalmers is going to have to build off a solid rookie season (unless Carlos Arroyo beats him out for minutes).

5. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats are a mess. They have no identity and nothing to be too excited about. They’re dealing for salary space rather than talent (see the Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler trade), which is rarely a good sign. Charlotte ought to find a way to get value in exchange for Raymond Felton and play D.J. Augustin full-time at the point, or at least pick between the two. It’s going to be a long season for the Bobcats.

Other than Charlotte, this division is wide open (after Orlando). The Hawks, Heat and Wizards may be fighting for one of the last few playoff spots.



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